Several years ago, I had a vision of a self-sustaining community that I often think about. On the Tuesday of Holy Week that year, I was alone in my room, praying, or trying to pray. It was a particularly difficult time in my life after my second marriage ended. I struggled with depression, a sense of hopelessness, and an overwhelming sense of failure. The vision I had that day gave me hope for a future different from my past.
The vision itself was powerful. In it, I had created a community of people committed to living together, pooling resources, and serving God. There was a working farm, an outdoor chapel, dormitory-style rooms, small cabins, indoor meeting space, and a steady flow of people. Some came for short periods of time for retreats, spiritual direction, and healing. Others stayed for months or years, finding peace and wholeness in the community. There was a balance of giving and receiving of resources, time, talent, visitors, residents, income, and expenses. The community was a place of peace, of healing, of wholeness. When the vision ended, I yearned for it to be real–a place I could go and belong and be welcomed.
It’s been years since I had the vision, and it has not come to be in quite the way it was in the vision. However, pieces of it have. I have found healing and wholeness. I have found a community where I belong and can use the fullness of my gifts. Maybe someday, the vision will come to be in a more literal way. But it doesn’t matter as much as it once did, because the lessons of that vision have stayed with me. I am often reminded that balance is necessary in all things. As Paul indicates in 2 Corinthians, our abundance should be shared to meet our neighbors’ need, not to create inequity but to ensure all have enough.
This is why I’m having trouble getting excited over celebrating Independence Day this year. Our forebearers might have ensured our independence from Great Britain, but they did nothing to prevent us from replicating the destructive ways of colonialism. We have done nothing to ensure any kind of balance. All our social systems tend to empower those who already have power and prevent those who are oppressed and marginalized from attaining justice or freedom.
I’m horrified by the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold the Travel Ban. Xenophobia should have no place in U.S. policy and practice. Outside of First Nations peoples, all our ancestors (recent or distant) came to this country bringing with them foreign weapons, strange gods, devastating diseases, new languages, or odd customs. Now, after we have claimed land that wasn’t ours to claim, all but destroyed native cultures, and enslaved others, we think it’s okay to discriminate against people who may not have white skin, may not speak English, may not be Christian, and may not live as we do? How is it that so many people have bought into the social myth of a white, Christian United States? Where is the justice and liberty for all people that we claim to value?
As human beings, we tend to be self-protective to the point of often being egocentric. We often react to fear by hunkering down and protecting what is ours. However, if we are Christians (if we follow any religious tradition at all), we are called to love our neighbor as ourselves. This means we have a mandate to care for the widow, the poor, the orphan, the stranger, the vulnerable among us. We are called to share our abundance so that the needs of our neighbors are met. You know, it’s all about the Golden Rule–treat others as you wish to be treated.
We aren’t meant to be independent. Left to our devises we tend to be fearful, stubborn, self-serving creatures. God invites us to be interdependent, giving and receiving according to abundance and need to create systems of balance. In God’s Realm all are whole, all are valued, all have purpose, and all share in God’s abundance. Love, not fear or scarcity, rules the day. Imagine how much better off the world would be if each country shared resources to balance abundance and need. How about each city and town doing the same? Each faith community? Each person? Our idolatrous worship of independence would come to an end as would our enslavement to the false gods of our social mythology. Xenophobia would end. Fear-mongering politicians would have no power. Immigrants and refugees would be welcomed and encouraged. There would be no hunger or poverty. No racism or corrupt systems of power.
Maybe this Independence Day you will join me in dreaming ways of making us independent from fear and interdependent on each other. Maybe this Independence Day we can work toward making manifest the Realm of God where our abundance will meet our neighbors’ need, creating a holy balance…
If you are looking for more sermon help, try here.
RCL – Year B – Sixth Sunday after Pentecost – July 1, 2018
2 Samuel 1:1, 17-27 with Psalm 130 or
Wisdom of Solomon 1:13-15, 2:23-24 or Lamentations 3:23-33 with Psalm 30
2 Corinthians 8:7-15